Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Few Words of Experience About Coalitions

I've seen some of my own party up in arms, whil the opportunistic Greens are offering a switch and the SNP ranting as usual about being left out of a rainbow alliance. So I think I have to tell you a little story about my own political journey.

Once upon a time I lived in a Lib Dem controlled council, but I left and since then (in 1997) it returned Liberal Democrat MPs.

Since that time I have worked for the ultimate coalition assembly of all powers in Northern Ireland. I have voted in 2003 on entering a coalition with Labour in the Scottish Parliament. I have been courted by both the SNP and Labour ahead of the 2007 council election with the aim of making deals for a coalition after the outcome and I have now agreed that the Conservative coalition is the best way forward for our country at this time.

Of those last three the first is a mix of First Past the Post and addional member top up, the second was by single transferable vote, the last of course was First Past the Post.

Here's the thing I would love to be back in the situation that Kingston council would have offered and even stronger after Thursday of allowing all the Lib Dem pledges to be inacted. Howvever, in 2003 when I entered the special conference to decide to enter a second partnership agreement I went in with questions. When the main two parties in West Lothian approached me, I had questions that would have needed to be answered. Again over the last few days I have had questions and many of them have been expressed on this blog.

I don't sit comfortably with the Conservatives, I cut my political teeth fighting them. I know many of my Lib Dem friends feel the same. I lean to the left of our party, I backed Simon Hughes to replace Charles Kennedy for example. I'm very much a social liberal with some economic liberal tendancies.

However, I do believe in electoral reform. I've seen it work in Northern Ireland and in Scotland, where people have to work together to get things done. People who do not always agree with each other all the time on all things. I have seen some combinations in a room to discuss real politics in Northern Ireland that you wouldn't believe if you look at the TV coverage of the time.

If my fellow Lib Dems agree that we need electoral reform to make a truly fair Britain they should know that there will probably never be an opportunity to hold absolute control by any party, including ourselves in some Scottish councils, ever again. In those circumstances it is a matter of who can step up to the plate and agree to get things done.

For those who felt that we should have gone in with Labour and the rest look at how much lack of control Labour had over its own MPs while those discussions were going on. I note that the Guardian and some other commentators have said that the Lib Dems lack discipline, but that has not been seen in the last week, it is Labour who showed they lacked that common purpose.

Look at what I posted earlier of what the Lib Dems have actually acheived. Look also at the things the regressive Conservatives have dropped to enable us to get these things in there. Look at all that Labour only were prepared to do "in principle" they didn't even send the man responsible for the costs to talks, it was all dependent on Darling. Osborne and Laws who are not working together both knew the costs of making deals in the Liberal Conservative talks, the Conservatives were prepared to move towards us and our stand point something that Labour seemed to not want to do in the negotiation team and more tellingly in the wider PLP.

So here it is, the new politics is about working together after the results are in. It doesn't mean that I don't campaign hard against either Labour, the SNP, Tories or others. You don't believe me ask them. They know that I will hold them to task.

But whether in Northern Ireland, West Lothian, Scotland or the UK if you have to work together to get things moving, advancing and rolling along you best do that, or else the people, the banks and whomever will crucify you for merely fiddling while things burn all around you.

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